Developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960s, cognitive therapy is designed to help clients overcome their issues and challenges by changing unhealthy thought processes, emotional responses and unacceptable behaviors. While behavioral therapy focuses on actions, cognitive therapy (as the name implies) emphasizes the thoughts and decisions that lead to those actions.
The general term “Cognitive Therapy” is often subdivided into three distinctive methodologies:
Often used for individuals who are struggling with depression, “traditional” cognitive therapy focuses on distorted thinking – for example, a tendency to perceive the world (or oneself) in a stark, black and white, all-or-nothing way. Cognitive therapy clients learn that temporary setback do not equate to absolute failure, and that people and outcomes can rarely be perceived in simple terms of absolutely good or irredeemably bad.
Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET)
Also referred to as rational-emotive behavior therapy (or REBT), rational-emotive therapy is based in the belief that closely held beliefs and attitudes can undermine a person’s ability to live a full and personally satisfying life. RET helps individuals recognize when negative emotions or attitudes are threatening to overwhelm their sense of well-being, and teaches them how to maintain healthy balance in their lives.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, CBT “is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events.” CBT is an active, goal-based technique that has proved to be effective with individuals who are struggling with issues as disparate as substance abuse and addiction, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, mood disorders and eating disorders.